Shazira and I take back the tower at first light from Berek’s parents.
In the heart of the summer, even the night brings no relief from the heat.
Dark clouds cover us, and the air is thick with humidity.
The lightning storms will reach us soon.
We dance the greeting to the sun, and then the four of us sit together in the Dreaming Room for a private breakfast.
There are always visitors in the tower, and my words are not for them.
The three children join us, but sit at another table, ten feet away.
I tell Zias and Bintar that the web was altered by an alien probe.
I speak of the madness that the damaged web brings us.
“We’ve seen the fear in others, Yagrin,” says Bintar, “spreading across the city like a plague.”
“Even children older than ten suffer from it, all but Berek and Tzina.”
“You seem calm, Bintar,” I tell him.
“Yes, we’ve been untouched by the fear.”
“I think the tower protects us, but Tzina and Berek seem immune.”
“The web is changing, Bintar, and the problem spreads far beyond the city.”
“Only a wintzal can protect you once you leave the tower.
“The children already have the shields.”
“We start tomorrow to build them for the guilds!”
“Let me build the walls for you, now.”
“No,” says Zias, standing up and pointing her hand at me.
“I won’t have you crawling through my head,” she says bitterly.
“We’ll stay in the tower for a few days, with the other visitors, until we decide what to do, or the guild council orders us to get the wintzals.”
Bintar touches her arm, and gently pulls her back down to the cushion, to finish her food.
“Yagrin,” asks Bintar, “can you build the mind spheres without seeing our memories?”
“No,” I tell him.
“We see only a few of your memories while we build the shield, but the memories come flooding in when we finish.”
“We can’t avoid it, and we remember every emotionally-charged memory whether we want to, or not.”
“Those are the ones that each person wishes to keep secret,” says Bintar.
“I know you don’t trust me,” I tell him, “but I’m not the only one who can build the wintzal.”
“Shazira, Tzina, and Berek can also do it.”
“I can’t imagine revealing the secrets in my mind to anyone, Yagrin, and definitely not my son!”
Berek looks hurt.
“I trust you, Berek,” says Bintar, “but I don’t want my private thoughts on display for my children.”
“You would never respect me again.”
“It has to be one of us, Bintar,” I tell him.
“Without the mind spheres, you’ll be covered in the madness, and you won’t be able to fight when war comes.”
“I can help,” adds Tzina, walking over to our table, and looking into my eyes.
“How?” asks Shazira.
“I know how to avoid the flood of memories at the end.”
“If any memories do come through, I know how to release the memories when I’m done.”
“Should I try and teach you, ina?”
“Where did you learn how?” I ask her.
“Dreams,” she answers.
I see in her eyes that this is a half-truth.
“Teach me,” I say aloud.
Then I open my mind sphere and touch the outside of her shield.
She opens it, and I hear her thoughts.
“It was no dream,” she tells me.
“It was Mayla.”
“I couldn’t speak of her and the city in front of Berek’s parents!”
“Why did you accept the training, Tzina?”
“You have the Bizra eyes, but when we first gave you the wintzal, you didn’t show any interest or ability in Mind Weaving!”
“I felt the strength in me, ina, but I was scared!”
“You know I almost died, when I got lost in my own thoughts.”
“How did Mayla convince you?”
“She said that you would need my help, ina.”
“There are so few left with the eyes,” she told me, “and not all can be trusted with this.”
“Why didn’t Makish teach me to erase the memories?”
“She must know Mind Twisting.”
“Mind Twisting can be used to erase someone else’s memories, but you can’t use it on yourself.”
“Mayla showed me a different way to release the memories we absorb from others.”
Tzina shows me a strange energy pattern.
It can be used as a shield to guard against the flood of memories, or as a torch to burn away single memories.
I practice on a small memory that I absorbed from Berek.
When it’s gone, I break the connection, and catch Bintar’s eyes.
“It works for me,” I tell him, “just as she said.”
“I can find and erase any memory that has been left with me.”
“I’m sorry Yagrin,” says Bintar, “but I don’t trust you.”
“I don’t believe that you’ll release our memories when you’re done.”
“He can take your memories anytime he wants,” says Berek, “and you’ll never even know.”
“Is this true, Yagrin?” asks Zias, horrified.
“Yes,” I tell her, “but I would never do it!”
Zias and Bintar look at each other and come to a silent agreement.
“Teach Shazira how to erase the memories,” says Zias.
“If she can learn how, Bintar and I will let her build the walls for us.”
A stream of anger rises in me, at their distrust, but I let it fall away.
“As you wish,” I answer.
Waking the Dead
Shazira and I walk up the steps of the council hall.
The stones seem dirtier than usual, as though those in charge of cleaning have given up.
Still, there are guards at the door.
They look at us far more suspiciously than normal, even though we wear the robes of tower guardians.
“State your business,” says a stocky guard, about my height.
“We’re here to meet the council for an emergency session.”
“Not until we check you for weapons,” says his partner.
“Weapons?” asks Shazira.
“When is a master afraid of weapons, and when did the council begin searching for them?”
“We are masters, but still only guards,” he says, seeming rational for the moment.
“We must follow council orders.”
“Fine,” I agree, making my robe and Shazira’s robe vanish, leaving little need for a search.
I reshape the robes a few seconds later.
The guards start shouting, and point their weapons toward us.
I make the weapons vanish.
Lina, head of the weavers’ guild comes to the door to see what the shouting is about.
“I told you I was expecting guests,” she says in a stern voice.
“We were only trying to search them, and they made our weapons go away!”
“Quiet,” she says, as though she was scolding children, and pushes them away from the door.
“Thank you for coming, guardians,” she says, addressing us.
“Let’s go inside.”
I wonder to myself why the guards were carrying weapons.
Has the sickness that infects the web taken the strength away from some of the masters?
“The guards are covered with fear,” says Lina, “and the fear makes it difficult to borrow the strength of the energy web.”
“I see the two of you are unaffected.”
“I was touched by the madness, Lina,” says Shazira, “until Yagrin freed me from it.”
“It has no effect on you, Yagrin?” asks Lina.
“No,” I answer, “as long as I protect myself with a wintzal.”
“What about you, Lina?” asks Shazira.
“You seem tired, but the madness ignores you.”
“I’m the only one on the council unaffected,” she answers.
“At first, I was also crushed by the fear, until I received this.”
She raises her hand to show us a ring with a small black stone.
“Where did you get it?”
“There’s none in the guild lands.”
“I became friendly with a healer and his wife when he healed my granddaughter after an accident.”
“He’s Tshuan by birth, but he became a master, and follows our ways.”
“When the sickness came, I called him.”
“Unlike many other healers, he still had his strength and balance.”
“Many of the masters can find our powers at times, but we have no balance.”
“Our strength is erratic and difficult to control.
“The healer worked on many of us in the council, to see if he could reverse or slow the sickness.”
“His healing had no effect, but when his wife heard of it, she spoke to me privately.”
“She told of an old Tshuan remedy for madness, a bit of Kralestone worn on the small finger.”
“She and her husband both wore the rings.”
“I laughed when she first suggested it, and called her foolish, but I wondered if it was really true.”
“He did have his balance.”
“As time passed, and my mind became more and more disturbed, I was willing to try anything!”
“I put on the ring, and the next morning, I felt better.”
“I tried to convince the other members of the council to wear such rings, but they accused me of trying to harm them.”
“I stopped speaking of it.”
“They still glare at me, when they see my ring, but they say nothing.”
“You can speak to them, Yagrin, but it’s useless.”
“Do you think the council will let you swim through their thoughts, when they are afraid of a ring?”
We pass the great hall where council business is always conducted.
The room is completely dark.
We meet the council in a private meeting room.
A dozen guards stand aside to let us enter.
The lights are dim, and the faces of the council are weak and frightened.
The head of the council struggles to find his voice.
“You called us here, guardian,” he says, “to discuss preparations for war.”
“Why don’t we meet in the main hall?”
“Tell me why the lights here are so dim.”
“Something is coming, Yagrin!”
“Don’t you feel it?”
“The light will attract it here.”
“We must hide, as long as we can.”
I wait a few seconds before I answer.
“I know what sickens you.”
“An alien probe reached this world and damaged the web.”
“The probe is gone, but the damage remains.”
“When the aliens who sent it come, how will you fight?”
“Can you heal us?”
“Our strength comes and goes.”
“How can anyone prepare or fight?”
“Shazira and I have our balance.”
“I don’t know how to heal the web, but I can shield you from the sickness.”
“Will you tell us to wear the Tshuan poison, as Lina does!”
“We will never do that!”
“We wear no rings, council,” says Shazira.
She looks at me, and then changes into a horrible beast.
One of the council reaches slowly for a weapon, but before he can raise it, Shazira changes back.
“Explain yourself,” he shouts.
“If I were the beast I would have torn you to pieces before you fired your weapon.”
“When you face our enemies, you will all die horrible deaths, weak as you are.”
“Nothing can be done,” they answer quietly.
“There is a way to save yourselves, and still not become puppets of Tshuan,” says Shazira, pointing to Lina’s ring.
“We can build you mind shields.”
“They will free you from the fear and the sickness.”
“You want to take our secrets, and twist our minds until there is nothing left of us.”
“No, council,” says Shazira.
“We will give you wintzals, so that your minds will be protected against any enemy.”
“When we are finished, we will have none of your memories, and even Mind Weavers will be unable to touch your thoughts.”
“It’s too dangerous.”
I project an image of the beast attacking a Jiku, and eating her alive.
“More dangerous than this?”
“What is that monster?”
“An image we captured from the probe before it was destroyed.”
“We believe that it’s the enemy we face.”
“That thing is intelligent?”
“Highly intelligent, but with an instinctive love of killing that it shows in war.”
The council looks at each other.
“Anything is better than the fate you showed us, but we must all stand together.”
“Lina must take off her ring and open her mind as we do.”
“Agreed,” says Lina, grudgingly.
Lina and I carry the council and their guards to the watchtower, where our minds will be protected while we lower our shields and build the wintzals.
We wait an hour for their minds to calm.
Lina removes her ring.
When new Mind Weavers make a wintzal, it leaves them weak and nauseous.
Even experienced Mind Weavers are weakened by the effort, and will build no more than a few each day.
Shazira builds the first wintzal, for Lina.
I show her the pattern, but it’s no help to her.
She can’t avoid the flood of memories when she leaves the mind, and she has to run to another room to throw up.
“I couldn’t block the memories,” she says, when she returns.
“Can you erase them?”
“No. Tzina’s way doesn’t work for me.”
She looks like she can barely stand up.
I cover her with healing energy, and her normal color returns.
“I’ll build the mind spheres for the others.”
“You said that you wouldn’t keep our memories!” says Lina.
“She can’t erase them, but I can.”
“Open your mind to me, Shazira.”
I look at Shazira’s mind web, and I can see bits of energy that feels different than the rest.
There are a few memories that she’s received from me, but most of the foreign memories are from Lina.
I find Lina’s memories and erase them with the pattern that Tzina taught me.
“Are you all right, Shazira?”
“Yes, and the memories are gone.”
I turn to the other council members, and finally the guards.
Gen speed doesn’t help here.
I have to build the wall like any other Mind Weaver, about fifteen minutes for each one.
When a sphere is complete, and I’ve taught the individual how to open and close it, I leave their mind.
The pattern protects me from the flood of memories, but building the wintzal still makes me weak.
I use healing energy to restore my body’s strength each time, but I still feel a weakness in my mind that grows.
I barely make it through the twenty Jiku, and I pass out after I’m done with the last of them.
Shazira catches me.
“Are you all right, Yagrin?” asks Lina, when I wake.
“Should I get a healer?”
I strengthen my body, and stand up.
“Mind Weaving weakens the weaver’s body and mind.”
“Healers can only restore the body, and I’ve already done that.”
“My mind will find it’s balance soon.”
“The shield works,” says the council.
“We feel no trace of the madness.”
“We need to leave the tower to test the results,” I tell them.
“The tower’s light protects us from the sickness,”
We fly back to the council hall.
“We’re free of it,” says Lina, “just as you promised, as long as the wintzal is closed.”
“When I open my shield, I feel the fear start to seep in.”
“The aliens may damage the web even more when they come, council, and the sickness may grow even stronger.”
“I hope the wintzal will be enough to protect you, then.”
“Keep it closed at all times,” I tell them, “especially while you sleep.”
The council speaks privately for a few minutes.
Then, the council head speaks for them.
“Show the frightening image of the alien to the guilds, guardian.”
“It will push the masters to accept your help.”
“We’ll also order them to come to the tower, according to the schedule you agree to.”
“They’ll be told that anyone who refuses will be driven out of the guilds.”
“When the guilds are safe, and our minds at rest, then we will meet, and speak of war.”
“What about the rest of the Jiku?” asks Shazira.
“How can they fight?”
“They’ll still be covered in fear!”
“Some can wear the Kralestone,” I answer, “but there’s not much of it, maybe enough to protect fifty thousand.”
“Tshuan will save most of it for their own people.”
“I’ll locate any adults with Bizra eyes and train them in Mind Weaving, but there aren’t many.”
“My children are Mind Weavers, and will also help.”
“You have one child.”
I’m silent, unsure how much to reveal.
“Berek is my son, not my nephew, and he has Mind Weaver skills.”
“There is also a young girl with Bizra eyes who has joined my household.”
“I brought her back with me from Sinesu.”
The council rises to their feet.
“I’ve seen our old home, walked in its forests, and glided above its seas.”
“Jiku lived there when I first arrived, although they have gone on to a new world.”
“Why have they left it?”
“Sinesu is gone, consumed by a sun, but all the Jiku escaped.”
“Let us ask our brothers and sisters for help!” suggests one of the council.
“It’s difficult to travel between worlds.”
“Besides, they have little to offer us.”
“Our weapons and energy skills are far beyond them.”
“Let them stay where they are and be safe, council.”
“Keep them out of this war.”
The council head interrupts.
“We need to protect ourselves, now!”
“How soon, Yagrin, can you build the wintzals?”
“A typical Mind Weaver can only build five to ten wintzals per day.”
“With, at most, thirty Mind Weavers, we can help about two hundred Jiku each day.”
“Even if we have a year to prepare, that only covers about seventy thousand.”
“The rest of Siksa will be unprotected.”
“This is unacceptable!” says Lina.
“Right now, we have no other choice,” says the council head.
“The guilds are only a few thousand.”
“Train the Mind Weavers, and protect the guilds.”
“This should take only a few weeks.”
“When the task is complete, we will call a meeting of the guilds.”
“You will return here, and tell us of Sinesu.”
“Then we will speak of war.”